Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving is a beautiful time of year where we are all reminded to be thankful. I love autumn because of the changing colours and sense of transition that it entails. I hate that it means the weather is going to grow colder! . IMG_3844 IMG_3840IMG_3831

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So to embrace the inevitable we decided to head north for Thanksgiving and spend time with the kids’ great-grandparents at their remote ranch.

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We always love our time at the ranch spending precious moments with my grandparents, enjoying the wide open spaces, free-range play and all the animals!

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We were able to maintain a good school routine at the ranch and kept up our math and journals during our time away.

In the past couple of weeks we have had our skating lessons. The kids are really enjoying the lessons and are developing their endurance during the one hour recreation skate afterwards.

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E will perform her group piece at Worship Dance next week and is preparing to auction for the church Christmas play.

In Co-op the kids had a great week reading All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlan.

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They spent time talking about important places to their family and are now writing individual books about the meaningful places in their lives.  They have been doing lots of work on structures at STEM camp and at Community Connections they are learning how to paint with an airbrush and are working on still life painting. E is learning about the human brain and is examining the similarities and differences between her life in Canada and the life of a girl growing up in Uganda. D is working on poetry and learning about the seasons. They are both learning movement skills in the PE time.

We also received the link for the documentary we participated in. We show up at 11:24 in Part 1 and if you are interested, you can view it here: http://www.fairchildtv.com/newsarchive_detail.php?n=27&topic=330&episode=609

We are thankful this week for our loving immediate and extended family, wonderful learning community, our friends and the beautiful country we live in. We are truly blessed.

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Dividing Lines

I forgot to get my camera out this week so sadly, no pictures 😦
The kids had a great circle time with M and are really taking their apples/ good character traits to heart!
In my lesson we continued learning about genre this week by extending last week’s lesson. The kids played a couple of quick sorting games such as grouping themselves according to who was wearing shorts or pants. Then we grouped according to what colour we were wearing. As they were each wearing more than one of the colours listed they began to consider which group to place themselves in more deliberately. As we became more complicated in our sorting criteria they had to begin asking more questions to determine which category they belonged in. We returned to the library table I had set up and reviewed our genres of fiction and non-fiction. I picked up a storybook, a novel and a poetry book and asked if they were all the same. The kids decided that even though they were all fiction they had very different features. I then start pulling out posters of 12 different genres and we read the definitions together and looked at examples then placed the posters around the room.
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When all the posters were up we broke into groups for the kids to sort our library into the appropriate sections.
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We wrote down some questions to consider as we sorted and learned to delve a little more deeply into how we look at books. There was lots of great discussion during this activity and at the end I asked them to think about which category might be their favourite.
As it was pretty wet out and not everyone had rain gear, we opted for an indoor recess. Most of the kids skipped and then we played a game called Grab the Bacon. I don’t know why this game is called this but played it as a child and always enjoyed it. We created two teams and numbered off each team so that each team had a number 1, 2, 3… player. The teams line up at opposite ends of the playing area then the caller shouts out a number and the two corresponding players have to race to grab an object in the middle called the “bacon”. We used a bright scarf and the  kids were very engaged and competitive about grabbing the scarf! It was lots of fun and a good way to be active on a rainy day!
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In the second half of the class we began making a lapbook that we will add to throughout the term.  For the first activity the children created a little library card index with pockets labelled for each genre. Some of them also worked on their cover designs. Next lesson we will add in more mini-books and some of their personal reflections on genre. I found a great *** free ***link here: http://hedua.com/literary-genres-lapbook which includes all the printables you could want to fill in the lapbook using these 10 genre categories: fantasy, mystery, historical fiction, science-fiction, realistic fiction, poetry, biography, autobiography, fairytale, and tall tales.
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If you haven’t tried lapbooks yet and are interested in learning more then go here: http://howtohomeschoolforfree.com/free-lapbook-notebook-resources/
And for more fun with genre lessons check this out: http://www.3rdgradethoughts.com/2013/10/sorting-books-by-genre-freebie.html
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For the rest of the week we continued with our math and journals. We are also working on a BIG reading response activity. We are planning a Narnia party for October 31! We are so excited and are busy sourcing out props to decorate our house to represent scenes from each book. We will publish a blog post about the party full of pictures after that day but in the meantime we are digging in to our planning and preparation!
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May the autumn winds blow good changes in your direction 🙂

A glimpse into life a world away

Driving in SA is always a bit of an adventure. First of all there is wrapping your head around driving on the “other” side of the road, then there are the taxis and lorries, predictably unpredictable, and once you get sort of used to all that you have the constant parade of “bakkies” full of people in the box and people everywhere selling, or trying to sell you something.IMG_2664 IMG_2665

The adjustments of coming from Canada to Africa are not unpleasant though. As we arrived here at the beginning of spring we have been humbled by the abundant beauty of this place.IMG_2678Jacaranda trees in bloom – a stunning sight!IMG_2679Inexpensive and tasty cappuccino in the morning sun with my sweeties.IMG_2682And the blessing of homeschooling throughout it all! We’ve  been doing lots of art as we lost power for 3 days and had a wicked virus going through everybody. Art was a quiet activity to pass the days and find ways to keep moving ahead with school without electronic support.IMG_6649IMG_6651IMG_6648E has become the resident story time gal when the moms and dads are preoccupied with other tasks. They love to curl up in different corners of the house with a pile of books.IMG_6653 IMG_6654 IMG_6655D has been challenged at school to work on his puzzle skills. He is taking it quite seriously and is continually trying to do more complex puzzles than previously mastered.IMG_6656And as we got into our art vibe we decided to start planning ahead towards advent. I went to my favourite source of inspiration, pinterest, and combined a few different ideas to come up with this cheap and cheerful advent calendar:

Step one: Take a 24 egg flat egg carton. IMG_66862) Number the depressions 1-25IMG_6687 3) measure corresponding squares on an 11×14 piece of and plan a design.IMG_66904) We worked on a couple of art objectives such as using and creating shades of a colour and staying in a cool or warm palette. Silhouette style figures and then pastel technique; rubbing pastels to get a solid coverage and blending for effect. Finally, we sealed the picture with a fabric paint sealer but you could use modge podge or even white glue.IMG_66915) Last you can decide what to put in your calendar. Fill up your slots and then glue, or tape the whole thing closed. I used a cereal box to edge mine and tidy it all up.IMG_6693In and out of arting we have been working away at spelling, reading, math and science. As the children here are preparing for the end of the school year we are prepping for the end of term 1. It will be our first report card meeting by Skype/ Facetime and will require some good planning to accommodate everyone’s schedules and the 10 hour time difference. We are enjoying our life here and feeling so blessed to be in this adventure!

Work and Play in the RSA

It is really amazing how we have been able to plug in to various programs going on in our neighbourhood! We are right around the corner from a Christian school which is supportive of homeschooling. They have a set fee for allowing homeschool kids to participate in extra-curricular activities. E has joined the sports program and gets swimming and tennis lessons 4 days a week.IMG_6184

On Tuesday we had the great pleasure of a fantastic tea and luncheon with dear friends that we met in Canada but  have since moved back here to SA. They were so hospitable and really rolled out the red carpet for us. It was so nice to sit and talk and talk and talk…! I hope C’s ears didn’t wear out as I think I did most of the talking! The boys have grown so much since the last time we saw them that the kids didn’t really recognize each other. They took a bit longer to reconnect but in the end they had a great time.IMG_6158IMG_6159With mixed feelings we participated in a “Hallelujah” party at the school. Mixed feelings because it is sort of sad to see how much American culture pervades the world and how Halloween is creeping in everywhere. We were glad to participate in the community aspect of the event and of course the kids are always happy when there is candy being handed out! As we didn’t expect to have Halloween here we didn’t have any costume stuff. The boys were happy to wear their new hooded towels though 🙂

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E wanted to be more creative and had the original idea of our family of 5 each wearing a mask and going as the “Big 5” the South African grouping of the top big African animals: Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Cape Buffalo. Since the boys wanted to wear their towels she went ahead as the … can you guess? 🙂IMG_6192

S is a pirate of course!IMG_6200

E and her friend C posing for the camera

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Daddy got into the act dressing as … a tourist!IMG_6207

And I joined in with a very simple costume for my part of the big 5. My mom loves rhinos because they are a great example of persrverance in the face of opposition, so this one’s for you mom!IMG_6212

We bought a beautiful Alphabet book featuring African animals for each letter and a kid -friendly recipe.Photo on 2013-11-05 at 7.45 AM

The kids really enjoy reading this book and wanted to start in on the recipes this week so we made:IMG_6221 IMG_6222We also made Buffalo bruschetta and are planning some Giraffe giggles as well 🙂

E is really enjoying reading and writing and was so pleased to get a letter from a friend back home that she went straight to her room and spent an hour writing a long reply!Photo on 2013-11-05 at 8.27 AM

She is making good progress with her Singapore Math 2A book working on place value which we started this week. I had a bit of a panic working on 2 digit subtraction with her a couple of weeks ago and thought we needed to back way up in our learning to review place value. She spent some time doing Math iXL and seems to be up to speed again for the moment. Whew! It is also really helpful that the local currency, the Rand is converts approximately 10 rand to 1 Canadian dollar. I often ask Eva to convert when we are buying groceries and sundries then discuss if it is more or less than we pay at home. Imported items tend to be quite expensive here. For example to buy a box of Cheerios might cost R89 for a 400g box. At home the same box of Cheerios might be $4 or less on sale. It is a great jumping off point for understanding global commerce and learning to buy locally.

We bought an app on the recommendation of a friend called “dragon box” but although it’s supposed to be a great math app we can’t really figure it out. Anybody out there wanna clue us in?

In our spelling and grammar book she has been working on identifying proper and common nouns and using correct pronouns.

D is trying to learn to print the lower case letters as his nursery school is quite particular about the children learning lower case first. He is also working on his pencil grip and training his observational skills in sketching.

When the weekend arrives Daddy is free and so we get to explore! It is funny that when we put on our tourist hats we start discovering  things around the area that our friends who were born here have never seen. I think it is exactly the nature of being a tourist that makes us want to get out and see as much as we can. We have fewer social demands on our time so are more free to go out and do things with just our nuclear family. This weekend we went to a miniature Las  Vegas called Montecasino and enjoyed the feeling of an Italian village and the Bird Gardens. First stop, the Rainbow Lorikeets (from Australia).

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These are a couple of glossy starlings again, i think you can see their fantastic colouring much better here.IMG_6355

Inside the casino:IMG_6374 IMG_6379We had a fabulous supper at a restaurant chain called The Meat Company where J and I ordered Kudu steaks!  (below is a picture of a kudu taken in our first week here in the Limpopo province.)IMG_5321

On Sunday we attended a second time at a new church that is part of an organization called Church of the Nations. It was Orphan Sunday and we found out that the church is closely involved/ administrates? an orphanage on the same street. They always have scones and coffee after the service (the real reason we go 🙂  we sat down at a table full of kids and one adorable little boy sat on my lap for the whole time. We realized at the end of the coffee time that they were all children from the orphanage and were humbled by their simple joy and grace in living life without a family.

After church we rested then decided to go out for a hike at a new nature reserve. The animals at this reserve were a bit more exciting to us Canucks.

WIldebeest

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Zebra

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A Blesbok AntelopeIMG_6423This is an unhappy S with ants in his pants! He is always fascinated by the hordes of ants scurrying around their anthills and consequently usually gets a few running up his legs as well.IMG_6436

Then further along the trail we met this fellow rambler.IMG_6444 IMG_6452

Every hike should end with swinging on somebody else’s arms!IMG_6463

In total we walked about 5km. D is still working on his stamina and at the end of the day he was tired but happy with the outing. IMG_6471The weather is getting warmer as we move from spring to summer and we’re planning some bigger outings in December. Hope to get some beach pics before too long 🙂

Finding Our Way

First to apologize for the delay on this post. It turns out my computer doesn’t like the number of pictures I’ve been taking and forcing it to store, as a result I have been negotiating with the mac-no-brain and trying to troubleshoot the problem. 🙂

This week was full of fun and learning. E and D are getting the swing of how things work  in Africa. D has begun to adopt the accent and E is determined to learn Afrikaans! It is fun watching them adapt to their new environment and accept the differences from what they’re used to.

It helps that we have this lovely pool around the corner from our house!

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And D loves playball, a mixed sports group that he participates in after nursery school once a week.IMG_2618

Then there are the trips to the shopping centres, restaurants and general fun out and abouting that we get to do.IMG_2658

I think it would be difficult for them not to enjoy themselves given the glorious weather and fantastic people here. We have tried to prioritize weekends for some family time and broader exploration so on Saturday we went for a hike at a nearby nature reserve. We saw some kind of bok (deer), and many colourful birds. This is a glossy starling. IMG_6090

They had an interactive model of the solar system showing the scale of the different planets and here the kids are enjoying climbing into the “sun”. IMG_6095
The anthills are always facinating as they are so huge! We often see both the closed and open variety and we had a good discussion of which animals would likely be in the area that would eat ants. They have pangolins ,(http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_pangolin.html), and aardvarks, (http://www.diffen.com/difference/Aardvark_vs_Anteater), here so it is fun to try and identify spoor and discuss the possibilities.

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jWe primarily chose this site to explore because of its proximity but once there discovered that it was also the original site of the first gold strike in SA. Now that’s a whole pile of history and social issues that we haven’t gotten into with the kids yet!!! This country has such an intricately woven tapestry of stories and we hope to at least learn with our children to identify the different threads and try and understand how the past of this place deeply affects the present. IMG_6114

We are fortunate to be here, and even more so to be here as Canadians with our strange accent that causes people to ask us where we are from constantly. We are spared the tensions that others who are born here experience daily as they struggle with ever-changing political and economic system. To have dark skin may be an advantage in the professional world, however, many black South Africans are still trapped in the endless cycle of poverty, overcrowding, poor education and violence while white South Africans largely enjoy a higher standard of living. This is of course tied to history and geo-politics of the 20th century. E and I are beginning a  research project to learn more about Apartheid and what actually happened. We have the opportunity of collecting primary research through interviews and museums and we want to genuinely understand the emotional climate that we find ourselves in.IMG_6123

South Africans, black and white alike, share some amazing values that are demonstrated by the meerkats. These meerkats (sorry I just cant get enough of these guys :), have amazing family ties and community relationships. The adults are all extremely protective of their young and despite their small size they can defend themselves against deadly snakes and larger predators by using their god-given abilities and working together. IMG_6148One of the strongest first impressions I had of South African culture is the way it values children. I was struck by how many terms of endearments people used with their children and how rarely I heard a parent rebuke their child. If the child was acting inappropriately the parents were often firm but gentle and constantly reaffirmed the child’s value even as they corrected them. I have to admit that I am not a patient parent and so I was really convicted as I saw this patience and acceptance of children here. I have so much hope for this country that a collection of people who value their children and can show so much kindness to these little ones, can somehow find a way to show kindness to each other as adults too!

 

Getting our Game on

Life here is starting to get hectic as we plug in with so many great opportunities around us! E and I did Christmas shopping on Monday to send a parcel with our friend who was flying to the US this week. It was fun to pick out special items for our family and to be done the majority of my Christmas shopping at such an early stage! 🙂Image

The following day E was able to join in with a local program called Honey Badgers at the zoo. IMG_5712

One of the many things this group does is participate in the care of the animals and so with the proper safety precautions, (the keepers put the animals into the locked section of their enclosures), E was able to make a fruit/bamboo kebab for the baboons then the kids were allowed into the enclosure to hide the food for the baboons to find.IMG_5727 IMG_5724

IMG_5746And this is why the baboons needed to be locked up before the kids were allowed in, check out the canines on this big boy!!! The baboon below is the dominant male in the Hamydras baboon troop. We learned that the male Chacma or Cape baboons actually have longer canines than a lion, YIKES!!! IMG_5718E had a great time connecting with her new friends from ice-skating and seeing the zoo. She listened to a presentation on owls and was able to observe a Southern White-faced Scops owl close up then followed up with a short research assignment about South African owls. (For more info check out this website: http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Ptilopsis&species=granti )IMG_5893

Here are E and her new friends posing with… can you figure out what kind of skull this is?IMG_5843

The flora and fauna here is lovely and exotic to our Canadian eyes!  This flower is called Buddleja, and is indigenous to South AfricaIMG_5866

These meerkats were vigilant in their guard duty!IMG_5828

E also joined the sports program at a Christian school around the corner from our house. She will be swimming and playing tennis 4 days a week for the school terms that we are here for. She enjoys it immensely and the pool has a lovely baby pool where the kiddos can splash about after lessons. We are continuing with our math and language programs in the mornings but our science and socials has really been exploring our new environment.

We wrapped up our week with a trip to another homeschooler gathering at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. It was a beautiful day with new families to meet. IMG_5936What fun is it to explore a garden without getting dirty in the process?IMG_5987

And again, the flora and fauna here is just stunning! We have yet to find out what kind of bird and butterfly these are.IMG_5961IMG_6008

South Africa is a place of such beauty in landscape and people. We are all learning so much and enjoying the journey!IMG_5908

Making Friends

Another week has flown by and I wonder if we’ll actually get to everything on our bucket list in the next 6 months! We started off the week with plenty of fun. We went to an American themed restaurant called The Spur, with ribs and hamburgers on the menu and a huge outdoor playground. It was funny to me that this “American” style place was unlike anything I’ve ever been to in the US or Canada! There was a distinct African flavour though in the birthday song that was sung many times through the afternoon, the staff would gather with a large drum, plenty of rhythmic clapping and a birthday song in Zulu!

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We did some science in the backyard with an interactive experiment in the states of matter. We had some fabulous powder that when mixed with warm water set into a very firm jelly mixture after only 5 mins. IMG_5635 IMG_5652

The kids loved the sensory play and we talked about liquids, solids and gasses as we played. They also hypothesized  how much water they could add to change the consistency then tested said hypothesis to find the perfect results!IMG_5665

This week we marked D’s first full week in a local nursery school. The system is a bit different here than in Canada. They don’t really have kindergarten in the primary schools but children attend nursery schools for 3 or 4 years before they enter primary school. D is really enjoying it, however we did find out that he seems a bit behind the other children in his fine motor skills. This was not surprising to me as he has always been more of a gross motor kid, however, the interesting thing in SA is that there is a much broader scope of early intervention in these things here than in Canada. It has been suggested that he might benefit from Occupational Therapy, something I would never consider at home given the stigma associated and the general practise of OT, PT and ST being allocated for children with more pronounced limitations. I had an interesting discussion with my friend on the cultural and political nature of these differences and how in a state-funded healthcare system these stigmas are useful to limit funding to profound need. SA has a private/ public system and these supportive health practises are generally paid privately so the onus is on the parents to take full advantage of the various professional services that may benefit their child. Consequently I am pondering an assessment for both E and D to see what improvements could be achieved.

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This week was also the week that homeschooling began in earnest and E is doing some review work in math and digging into a new spelling book with grammar and punctuation lessons. Her first unit came on the heels of our trip to the bushveld and is all about camping!

E and I were able to drop in on a home-school social gathering at an  ice-rink. It is somewhat ironic that as Canadians who live in the most moderate climate in Canada we rarely go skating. Now as visitors to South Africa, in spring no less, we are brushing up on our ice-skating technique! We made some lovely new friends and were invited to some other events next week that we’re looking forward to sharing with you then.  (apologies for the lousy phone pics!)IMG_2596IMG_2601

To wrap up our week we decided to be very Canadian and thank our SA hosts and their extended family by preparing them a traditional CA Thanksgiving dinner. I have to say that cooking a turkey on the braii and eating outside on the patio in the warm spring evening was a delightful change from the traditional Canadian experience!

IMG_5698 IMG_5686 IMG_5697These people have all opened their homes and hearts to us for our sojourn with them and we are so very  grateful to be part of their family circle!